Bollywood is one of the most film industries in the world. Based in Mumbai, the industry churns out hundreds of films each year – primarily melodramatic films with each music and elaborately choreographed dance routines. Bollywood’s popularity is quickly spreading across the globe, and, beyond the films themselves, Bollywood has made its way into global popular culture.
Global Bollywood brings together leading scholars to examine the transnational and transmedia terrain of Bollywood. Defining Bollywood as an arena of public culture distinct from Hindi-language Mumbai cinema, this volume offers new critical framework for analyzing the institutional, cultural, and film music as they begin to constitute an important circuit of global flows in the twenty-first century.
Organized thematically, the book examines contestations surrounding the tern Bollywood, changing relations between the state and the film industry, convergence with television and new media, online fan culture, film journalism, and the reception and negotiations of gender and sexuality in diverse socio-cultural contexts. Indispensable for understanding not only Bollywood cinema and culture but also how global media flows are reconfiguring relationships among geography, cultural production, and cultural identity.
Global Bollywood will appeal to students and researchers of culture and film studies, sociology, and history, as well as general readers interested in Bollywood.
Anandam Kavoori is Associate Professor, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. He is the author of Thinking Television: Media Literacy, Multiculturalism and the Work of Democracy and The Logics of Globalization: Re-imagining International Communication.
Aswin Punathambekar is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Aishwarya Rai made it to cover of Time magazine, and even taught Oparah Winfrey and her viewers to wear a sari; The Simpsons ended their trip to India with a dance set to a Hindi film song; Bollywood film sold more tickets in the United Kingdom than English-language films; the Indian government granted “industry” status to cinema, and instructed Bollywood to set its house in order and speak the language of “corporatization”; Bollywood stars, no longer obliged to entertain the mafia, partied at Cannes instead; urban India mourned the decline of single-screen theaters but quickly grew accustomed to glitzy multiplexes; young men and women, many non-South Asian, wrote and shared erotic fan-fiction featuring Bollywood’s hottest stars; and Shekhar Kapur, acclaimed director of Elizabeth and Bandit Queen, declared that Bollywood would define and dominate global entertainment in the twenty-first century.
Such fragments are interesting not only because they serve as useful entry points for thinking about Bollywood’s intersection with the “global” over the past decade. More important, they signal that the emergence of Bollywood as a space of cultural production and expression that is now decidedly global spells trouble for categories such as “Indian cinema,” “nation,” “public,” “culture,” modernity,” and “politics,” and our assumptions and understandings of relationships among these categories. These fragments of a larger and more complicated narrative of Bollywood’s arrival on the global stage points to rapidly changing, complex, and often surprising connection within and among industry practices, state policy, new media technologies, sites and modes of consumption, and networks and forms of sociality that criss-cross regional, national, and transnational boundaries and affiliations.
In this anthology, we bring together a set of essays that critically examine the complex ways in which the transnational and transmedia terrain of “Global Bollywood” has reframed relationships between geography, cultural production, and cultural identities. When and how did Bollywood emerge as an arena of public culture distinct from Hindi-language Bombay cinema? In what ways do diasporic imaginations of “India” shape Bollywood’s encounters with the global? How can we rethink the state’s relationship to cinema given varied state institutions’ defining role in the corporatization and globalization of Bollywood? What new modes of distribution, exhibition, and how do we study them? How are “stars” constructed in Bollywood? Can Bollywood’s convergence with new media, and fan practices that emerge therein, be historicized? In what ways has Mumbai’s emergence as a centre of transnational cultural production changed its relationship with other “media” capital” such as Chennai, Hyderabad, Hong Kong, and Los Angeles?
The essays collection here tackle these and other questions, and high-light many other themes and issue for further inquiry. In doing so, these essays participate in ongoing scholarly efforts to map a vast and complex mediascape that is not only worthy of investigation on its own terms, but one whose study is critical for advancing our understandings of the social, cultural, and political dimensions of media globalization. Authors here employ a range of methodological approaches including institutional, cultural, textual, and ethnographic analyses and together, offer an in inclusive approach that marks a departure from studies of the cinema in India that until recently have focused on questions of representation and the formal properties of film (Liang 2005; Singh 2003). We do not wish to suggest that this anthology offers a major paradigm shift – essays here amply demonstrate that the study of cinema in India ha s a long. Rich history, and that the insights and vocabulary developed over the past two decades continue to influence our inquiries today.
Cinema in India has been studied as a profoundly important “national-popular” domain that has negotiated various transitions and conflicts in the sociocultural and political fabric in India for over a century now. In essays published in the Journal of arts and Ideas and Economic and Political Weekly, and in several book-length studies and collections, scholars have written extensively on the politics of representation in Indian cinema. Juxtaposing reading of films’ narrative and representational strategies with the sociocultural and political context within which they were produced, circulated, and debated, these studies help us understand how cinema mediates ideas regarding nation, gender, caste, class, community, focused attention on a range of filmic and extra-filmic sites with varied theoretical lenses: Indian cinema and the question of national identity (Chakravarty 1993), as a “site ideological production… as the (re) production of the state from” (Prasad 1998: 9), popular film as social history (Virdi 2003), relationship between spectatorship and democracy (Rajadhyaksha 2000; Srinivas 2000), state policy and censorship (Mehta2001), stardom (Majumdar 2001; Mazumdar 2000),style and visual culture (Dwyer and Patel 2002), urban experience (Mazumdar 2007; Liang 2005; Kaarsholm 2004) and as a site for the articulation of queer desire (Gopinath 2005; Desai 2004). These studies grapple with the idea of how cinema (Bombay-based Hindi cinema, for the most part) relates in complex ways to the civic and the political, and offer us several vantage points to tackle what Rajadhyaksha has termed the “Bollywoodization” to Indian cinema (Rajadhyaksha, in this volume). In dialogue with this established body of scholarship, the essays in this anthology seek to broaden the study of cinema by approaching Bollywood not just as a textual form, but, as Singh suggests, as a “socially embedded set of practices… as a technology, as a commodity, and lastly, as implicated within diverse modes of socially” (Singh 2003: n.p).
We also wish to position this anthology as one that approaches Bollywood as a distinct zone of cultural production, and not as the latest phase in Bombay cinema’s global travels that extend back several decades. Films from India have always traveled to different parts of the world and, as Gopinath notes, they have been an “important form of pan-Third World-ist cultural exchange between India and east and South Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe” (Gopinath 2005: 94). Tracing these network certainly constitutes an important and much needed corrective to accounts which suggest that it is only recently, with the gradual institutionalization of the overseas, diasporic box office, that Bollywood has acquired international dimensions. As Eleftheriotis and Iordanova point out, such narratives are “misleading as they overlook historically significant processes, periods and cultural exchange” (2006: 79). However, we would argue that fixing Bollywood within a narrative that seeks to claim that the cultural geography of Indian cinema has always been global will be equally misleading. While remaining attuned to the history of Indian cinema’s flows worldwide, we situate “Global Bollywood” in relation to the specific historical conjuncture of India’s entry into a transnational; economy over the past 10-15 years, the centrality of the NRI (Non-resident Indian) figure to India’s navigation of this space, reorientation of state policy toward cinema, and the challengers of operating in a de-regulated and global electronic mediascape defined by the phenomenal growth of the television and advertising industries during the 1990s (Rajadhyaksha, Prasad, both in this volume; Thussu, in this volume). In other words, we can approach Bollywood as marking something new, as providing a window into the dynamics of public culture in contemporary, post-liberalization India, while remaining attentive to historical continuities. Let us, then, sketch the contours of this space before providing an overview of the essays in this anthology.
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